Archive for Neighborhoods: Downtown/Central Berkeley

Poetry on Addison Street

I have been meaning to talk about the Addison Street Poetry Walk for awhile, and now seems like an appropriate time with April’s National Poetry Month approaching. I do not want to go so far as to say that poets, compared to other writers, musicians, and artists, have it the hardest in terms of getting exposure for their work; one could make an argument for any specific group within this realm. (A New Yorker article from earlier this year, The Moneyed Muse, offers an interesting glimpse at some recent struggles in the poetry world.) However, I do imagine that there are many Americans who go for long periods of time without being exposed to much poetry beyond the greeting card stand. Not so in Berkeley; the city seems to have a higher than usual commitment to the promotion of poetry. The Poetry Walk is a series of 120 or so cast-iron plates set into the sidewalk along Addison Street in downtown Berkeley, each displaying poetry. The poems range from works form Ohlone Indian times to lyrics from the punk band Operation Ivy. A book on the poetry walk is available from local publisher Heydey Books.

UC Berkeley hosts the free Lunch Poems series, and Robert Hass, former U.S. poet laureate, teaches in the English department. Poetry Flash, which includes poetry reviews and event listings, is published in Berkeley. But most relevant to my walk is the poetry I have found tacked up to fences, boards, and other places. Especially along the stairways and pathways, I have founded handwritten and typed poems tacked up for strollers to enjoy along the way.

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